BEST ROCK CLUB (1998)
Gotta give props to the monolith. In an age when the clubs that used to make up the American punk-rock network seem to be outnumbered by outlets of the House of Blues, First Ave. remains one of the most catholic rock clubs in the country. Booking everything from West African folk to the Flaming Lips Experiment, the main room remains by far the most accessible venue for diverse live music in town; this space has essentially been redefining what rock is for 20-odd years. And the 7th Street Entry next door--as spare as ever in decor--is still the best testing ground in town for new talent. With dance-night DJs who straddle the line between mainstream and underground, this club remains as cutting-edge as ever. The drink prices are reasonable, the management is anything but stingy with the comp tickets--and the crowds keep coming.